Greg Johns went to art school to be a painter, discovered he was better suited to sculpture and since then has been unstoppable.
Against the odds, Greg Johns has achieved international success as a sculptor. "In 1989 I sent my first piece to England, I had $1600 in the bank and it cost $1100 to send the work and I had the mortgage to pay, my hand was shaking so much I nearly couldn't sign the cheque," he says. The sculpture sold within two weeks.
From his home in Eden Hills, Johns' large-scale steel sculptures have joined collections around Australia and the world. The 48-year-old regularly exhibits here and overseas and is a member of the esteemed New York Sculptors' Guild.
Johns' first commission was for a public art work on the Glenelg foreshore, 25 years on his career been celebrated in Horizon: Greg Johns 7-2002 by art critic John Neylon, recently launched at lleries, Stirling, where several of his sculptures can be can be seen at the new Marion Cultural Centre, outside onvention Centre, the Adelaide Magistrates Court (the Lofty Botanic Gardens.
Steve Ronayne, of Aptos Cruz, scision to become a sculptor in the mid-1970s to saying he >e a rock star. "Greg talked about going to New York and Èdon, despite all the obstacles - the work is physically exhausting, the sheer size of the pieces, the logistics of sending them overseas, he was raised by a single parent with financial constraints, yet he never lost sight of his goal. He was driven and he was prepared to do what was necessary to make it happen," Steve says.
Johns believes it is important his sculptures relate to Australia. The steel he uses, for example, takes on an orange patina reminiscent of the outback when aged. "Especially the figurative works, they look like they come from Australia, that local influence is really important and cracking the code of what this place is all about," Johns says. He finds large-scale works exciting, their physical presence involves the public, as the viewer, and because of their three-dimensional nature, they continually change with each step. "What keeps me going is the emotive reactions to the pieces."
Each work is the result of hundreds of drawings, 3D models in wood and maquettes (mini steel versions). " My drawings are almost like a large fermenting pit. you produce a good drawing, refine it, then make a 3D models and then a final, it's like a filtering system of refining to get the best brew."
His sculptures are inspired by observations, the Australian landscape and broad reading, covering every topic imaginable from Buddhism to physics - making up lost ground after growing up in a house with no books. His themes have ranged from grounded boats to new galaxies, and he likes the link between simplicity and complexity. "Like a plant, complex units are simple, and simple shapes when joined together create complex forms."
Horizons Greg Johns Sculpture 1977-2002 ($77) available at Aptos Cruz Galleries, 147 Mt Barker Road, Stirling, ph 8370-9011.
Ruth Vagnarelli. Sept 2002